Virtual desktops win the security case for Brisbane lawyers

Jason Mills, IT manager at Cooper Grace Ward, speaking at the Evolve 2013 conference.

It may have started out as a way of simplifying an increasingly complicated IT environment, but Brisbane law firm Cooper Grace Ward (CGW) has found its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) investment is also delivering improved remote-access security, data protection and integrity of sensitive information.

CGW’s move to adopt a VDI infrastructure came as the company was looking at ways of improving the flexibility of its desktop standard operating environment (SOE) so that it could be more easily administered, and accessed from anywhere by the firm’s highly mobile lawyers and other employees. One of the firm’s lawyers, for example, works full-time from Cairns.

The ensuing implementation was a significant learning experience for IT manager Jason Mills and his colleagues, who set about building a modern SOE based on Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows 2010, and delivering it via VMware’s View VDI server. The environment worked great in trials on the local network, but when it was rolled out to the field the team were deluged with complaints that it wasn’t responsive enough.

“We had developed this new SOE but had developed it only on View, and never compared it to our old physical desktops,” Mills told attendees at the recent Evolve 2013 security conference.

“We gave the new SOE to someone using View, and they said the old desktop was terrible – but that was where we got trapped. We had gone from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Win 7 with all these new apps, and had to optimise our [SOEs] for Windows 7.”

If managing the actual application delivery was one crucial challenge, ensuring the security of the new environment was another. The VDI model centralised the risks of the desktop model by moving images onto a centralised server – but it also forced the team to reconsider its methods of protection, because the VDI images would be accessed on iPads and other staff devices in a model that requires its own security considerations.

The PC over IP (PCoIP) protocol, developed by Teradici and built into VMware View, offered a robust solution because its built-in encryption helped guarantee the integrity of the SOE streams between server and client device. This offered a level of assurance for a workplace environment in which confidential data is regularly moving around the corporate network.

The firm also implemented Trend Micro Deep Security, a virtualisation tool designed to give VDI environments agentless protection including anti-malware, intrusion detection and prevention, firewall, Web application protection, integrity monitoring, and log inspection capabilities.

“Instead of having all the information on the desktops, it’s housed in the data centre,” Mills said. “We’re not storing anything locally on the iPads, and we’ve got endpoint protection for the SOEs. Even before you connect the device it’s doing authentication at the SDK level.”

Having been through the process, Mills said the shift to VDI had cost around 10% more than the conventional approach but had delivered savings – for example, from the reduction of the previous 2.5 helpdesk staff to just one person – and operational benefits such as end-to-end encryption that supports data governance objectives.

“We have empowered users that can go where they want and when they want, and do all the things that users do,” Mills said. “We’ve got more efficient and smaller IT teams, we’re a bit more agile where we can make changes and we’ve got less reliance on physical hardware – and we’ve got a flexible, secure, and consistent environment that has been fantastic for us.”

Follow @CSO_Australia and sign up to the CSO Australia newsletter.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityCooper Grace Ward (CGW)virtual desktops

More about CSOEvolveMicrosoftTeradiciTrend Micro AustraliaVMware Australia

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by David Braue

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts